Mexico: four die in Chiapas land dispute

Four people died the morning of April 5 in a confrontation between indigenous Mexicans over land in Chilón municipality in the highland region of the southeastern state of Chiapas. The violence broke out when some 25 people tried to remove members of the Regional Organization of Autonomous Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO) from a 84-hectare ranch; sources differ on whether the ranch is called San Luis or Luis Irineo. The attackers were apparently egged on by the former owner of the ranch, which a group of ORCAO members took over in 1994. On April 6 the state attorney general's office announced that four people had been arrested in the incident. (La Jornada, Mexico, April 6; SDP Noticias, Mexico, April 6)

The Jan. 1, 1994 uprising of the Chiapas-based Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) sparked land occupations throughout the state's highlands, but not all the occupying groups were sympathetic to the Zapatistas; disputes continue to this day. Zapatista supporters in the April 10 Ejido (communal farm), located between Altamirano and Las Margaritas in the highlands, say ORCAO members joined some 300 people from the "Democratic faction" of the Independent Central of Agrarian Workers and Campesinos (CIOAC) in a Jan. 30 attack on the ejido with stones, clubs and machetes that left six people injured. Medical workers from Altamirano's San Carlos Hospital were reportedly attacked when they attempted to help the injured. EZLN supporters accuse the Las Margaritas municipal government as well as the state and federal governments of inciting the violence. (Proceso, Mexico, Feb.19)

Zapatista sympathizers report that Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, the regional coordinator of the pro-EZLN Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, was murdered on March 21 while in Chilón municipality, a little less than one year after the murder of another member of the ejido, Juan Vázquez Guzmán. The sources are not clear on the motives for the killings, but they point to Chilón mayor Leonardo Guirao Aguilar, of the small centrist Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), and mention a possible connection of the violence to the Florida-based Norton Consulting real estate company and plans for the development of tourism in the region, which includes the Palenque archeological site. (Koman Ilel, (Mexico, March 22; Enlace Zapatista, Mexico, April 2)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 6.